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On the hunt for new hiking shoes? In 10 years, our all-female hiking team has tested 48 pairs with the 13 best contenders available today in our current review. Our hiking enthusiasts busted out long miles through deserts and forests, mountains, and streams, covering well over 150 miles in these hikers every testing season. We carry loaded packs, consider all-day comfort, and evaluate traction over and through wet and slippery surfaces. From variable foot shapes to varied trail surfaces, we look at it all and rank each shoe according to our on-trail experiences. Over months of side-by-side comparison and testing, we tease apart the differences between these shoes and share our findings to help you pinpoint your perfect pair.
Editor's Note: We updated the women's hiking shoe review on May 20, 2022, to add several new shoes to the line-up and re-test some old favorites. The new shoes include the Danner Trail 2650, Merrell Siren Edge 3, and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator. We re-tested the La Sportiva Spire GTX, Merrell Moab 2 WP, and Keen Targhee III Low.
The La Sportiva Spire GTX was easily one of our review team's favorite shoes. They combine some of the best hiking shoe technology with a comfortable fit and excellent traction to create a shoe that's fit for everything from day hiking and climbing approaches to technical mountain scrambles and backpacking. They resemble trail runners — fairly light and technical — rather than a rugged hiker, but they kept up with any terrain or objective we through their way. The upper is flexible and comfortable. The midsole is solid and supportive. The traction is bomber. The happiest surprise with the Spire is that the Gore-Tex Surround waterproof liner is also breathable. Yes, you can wear these on a trail run, but they shine on multi-day hikes and light-and-fast mountain adventures. For scrambling off-trail, peak-bagging, or enjoying any trail we came across, these hikers are exceptional.
Over months (and years!) of rigorous testing, we have had to replace the laces on the Spire a handful of times. They have thin nylon lace holsters that wear down the laces over time –- especially if you prefer a snug fit. Beyond the laces, these hikers proved to be exceptionally durable, but all the technology that makes them so incredible comes at a price. As one of the spendiest options we tested, this shoe may not be an affordable option for some. But for those planning hiking adventures where comfort, support, and performance are a priority, the cost will be well worth it.
If you are looking for a fair-weather hiking shoe without breaking the bank, the Merrell Siren Edge 3 is an easy shoe to recommend. They are among the lightest-weight shoes in our review, and they are incredibly breathable. They were comfortable to wear on long hikes after only a minimal break-in period. The tread features soft and sticky lugs, which provide great traction on hard-packed trail, scree, and for mellow scrambling. These shoes are made from synthetic materials, so the Sirens are even vegan-friendly.
No shoe is perfect, especially if you're looking for a bargain, and the Siren is no exception. While the uppers have a durable water-resistant (DWR) treatment, they did not prove waterproof or even very water-resistant. That said, as long as you don't encounter more than a soft drizzle and trail conditions are mostly dry, these shoes are sufficiently protective. They also dry incredibly fast, so if they do get wet, they won't stay that way for long. And if you live in a wet climate, they come in a waterproof version for just a little bit more money. Over the course of our review cycle, these shoes showed signs of below average durability, with signs of wear on the toes and the soft tread. Still, the Siren Edge is a great deal if you want to grab a pair of comfortable shoes for all your upcoming summer hiking adventures.
The Merrell Moab 2 WP is wildly popular for a good reason. It is a tried and true hiking shoe that delivers solid performance year after year. It's also affordable for a waterproof shoe, reasonably lightweight, and offers decent traction. The ankle height is slightly lower than some of the other models we tested, allowing water to go over the top in shallower puddles or streams, but we found the Moab 2 WP to be completely waterproof on the trail and in our controlled tests. Despite their excellent waterproofing, they still breathe well due to their mesh lining. Indeed, this shoe does well in most categories at an excellent price.
The Moab 2 was stiff and uncomfortable out of the box. The laces were too stiff to properly adjust the shoes to fit our feet, and the tongue was initially uncomfortable. However, they became more comfortable after a couple of short hikes. These shoes run a little short, especially in the waterproof model, so our lead reviewer had to size up a half-size. If you are between sizes or like to hike in a thick sock, you may want to order up a half-size too. This shoe has been on the market longer than most of the competition, proving that they offer reliable performance at a reasonable price that fits the hiking needs of most day hikers.
The Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex is the latest update in the X Ultra series. It has some noteworthy changes, including a new fit and new materials, and it has shed significant weight while increasing stability. The toe box is roomier for added comfort, but the uppers provide a snug fit to hold the foot in place, which prevents the shoes from feeling sloppy. The unconventional cinching Quicklace system makes it easy to put these shoes on and pull them off in seconds. Salomon uses a lot of proprietary tech terms to describe why their shoes offer support and comfort. After miles of hiking, we interpret this to mean that the lightweight upper is strategically reinforced with various materials to aid in both flex and stability. The Contagrip soles provided excellent traction on loose scree and wet rocks, and the Gore-Tex liner proved to be fully waterproof in our tests. A fantastic shoe for all manner of technical terrain.
That said, it isn't all roses. We have some concerns about the durability of the X Ultra 4. The Quicklace storage pocket tore almost immediately, and we noted signs of compression in the midsole. The comfort and cushion of the midsole are ultimately a tradeoff for underfoot support and protection, which is why this wouldn't be our go-to shoe for multi-day expeditions that require a heavy pack. However, it shines for light and fast adventures that require agility and speed. This model runs long, and we suggest ordering a half size down from your normal size. Overall, this is an all-around, hard-charging option that experienced and casual hikers alike will appreciate. At a much more moderate price, this is a great alternative to the more expensive La Sportiva Spire GTX.
The Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry hiking shoes are incredibly supportive and comfortable for all-day hikes, especially when carrying a 20-30 pound pack. The midsole is plush, and the proprietary insole provides structured support, making the Sawtooth II an excellent option for multi-day trips. The lugs are chunky enough to shed mud and grab on loose surfaces, while the rubber is soft enough to grip rock slabs and logs. Oboz's BDry waterproof/breathable membrane kept our feet dry from rain and ventilated away sweat. One of the updates in this model (over previous iterations) is larger vents for increased breathability. While some hikers with narrow feet may need to wear a thicker sock for optimal fit, we appreciated having extra room in the toe box to allow our toes to wiggle and splay. The shape of the upper, combined with the insole's shape, holds the heel perfectly in place, minimizing lifting and rubbing.
The only thing we don't love about the Sawtooth II is its weight; it is the heaviest shoe in our review. And in our bucket test, even though it proved to be waterproof, the leather upper absorbed a measurable amount of water, making the shoes even heavier. However, the extra protection, support, and durability of the Sawtooth II is an acceptable tradeoff, especially for hikers heading out on longer treks.
The Arc'teryx Aerios FL is an incredibly lightweight and performance-oriented hiking shoe in a clean and minimalist style. Its eye-catching appeal owes to using welds instead of stitches and mono-colored materials, from the uppers to the laces to the rubber toe caps. More important than form, we are impressed by its functionality on the trail in various types of terrain. The sticky rubber soles provide excellent traction on everything from loose, unconsolidated rubble to wet boulders, and the synthetic uppers held up well against lava rock and prickly desert shrubs. After many miles of hiking, the shoes are dusty but largely unscathed from our adventures.
While we are impressed by the support offered of the compressed EVA midsoles, we do not consider them supportive enough for days when a heavy pack is required. We also wouldn't choose this shoe for multi-day trips or hikes on extreme terrain because the uppers are too lightweight. But when your itinerary is short and fast, or for any day that you want to be light on your feet, the Aerios may well be the perfect choice.
It is really no surprise that the Keen Targhee III Low is such a crowd-pleaser. These wildly popular shoes feature durable leather uppers and multi-directional lugs for long-lasting shoes that provide great traction on varied terrain. They have a roomy toe-box and are often recommended for folks with wide feet, but they were comfortable with our B-width reviewer with aftermarket insoles. We love the roominess of the toe-box because it provides space for your toes to splay. With a proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane, these shoes proved quite water-resistant in the field.
These shoes — like all the others — are not without their flaws. While the Targhee did well in our bucket test and proved to be very water-resistant, they have a lower-cut ankle collar that allowed some water into the shoes. This need not be a deal-breaker unless your hiking adventure plans entail a lot of stream crossings or slushy snow — and in that case, you might want to wear a high top anyway. Finally, the sturdy leather uppers will last for the long haul, but they also make these shoes less breathable than others in our review. If you run cold or prioritize durability over everything else, this won't really matter. Either way, this shoe proved to be a formidable option for anyone needing a stable and comfortable hiker for long days (and nights) on the trail.
Our review team is headed up by a team of strong women with decades of hiking experience. Our lead review editor is Mary Witlacil. Mary has spent years working in the outdoor industry and adventuring all over the US and the world. Her love of the environment and playing outside compelled her to pursue a Ph.D. in Environmental Politics, which she is working on in Fort Collins, CO. When she isn't nose-deep in a book, she spends her time climbing alpine rock or desert splitters, backpacking, camping, or riding bikes. She has hiked extensively throughout the Rocky Mountains, the Sierras, and the desert Southwest. She draws on her extensive outdoor and academic experience for gear testing with GearLab.
Laurel Hunter has her basecamp one short block from the National Forest outside of Bend, Oregon, and has a couple of pups eager for daily trail miles. Laurel was raised by an avid outdoor adventurer and has been outside most of her life. Her obsessive pursuit of perfect gear is backed by decades of trail running, mountain biking, hiking, camping, and outdoor experience. Using her training as an artist, she thinks well outside the box for her gear testing and pays attention to every detail.
Before testing begins, we research the breadth of options available. After scouring the market and vetting a huge variety of manufacturers and models, we purchase all shoes discussed here at retail price. Our selection includes models that we consider the most promising, innovative, intriguing, and high-value available. We then test our selected models for months, hiking dozens of miles in each pair.
Women's hiking shoes were tested in 6 performance metrics:
Comfort tests (25% of total weighted result)
Support tests (20% of score)
Traction tests (15% of score)
Weight tests (15% of score)
Water Resistance tests (15% of score)
Durability tests (10% of score)
Our testing includes more than 10 individual assessments on each pair of shoes. Comfort and support tests were the two most important test metrics and together make up nearly half of the total weighted score. We wore each pair of hikers in various terrain, from soft trails in the forest to scree-covered buttes to rocky scrambles. We assessed support while wearing a light daypack and a heavier 20-30 pound load, checked traction by wearing them back-to-back on wet and technical scrambles, and carefully evaluated all of their positive and negative aspects along the way. Since 2012, we've tested more than 48 hiking shoes for women, giving us insight to better evaluate the performance of each shoe.
Analysis and Test Results
Following the testing period, we scored each pair of hiking shoes on specific criteria so you can find the best shoes for your needs. Read on to learn more about each metric and which shoes rose to the top.
Hiking is, at its core, a pretty basic activity that requires much less gear than most sports. That said, a good pair of hiking shoes tailored to your outdoor objectives is essential. Back in the day, you could buy one pair of leather hiking boots that would last a decade or two, while current styles of hiking shoes typically last a fraction of that time. While these shoes benefit from lighter materials and innovative technology, people who hike a lot may blow through one or even two (or more!) pairs a year. Though the shoes in this review may not be outrageously expensive, the dollars add up if you're replacing them yearly. We offer opinions on the value of the shoes based on the metrics below, but to a certain extent, the value will depend on your hiking priorities.
The Merrell Siren Edge 3 offers an excellent value for the price. It is one of the least expensive and lightest-weight shoes in our review. It provides great comfort and traction, and because it isn't waterproof, the breathability is fantastic for warmer weather. If you need a waterproof shoe, the Merrell Moab 2 WP is a good example of high value in hiking footwear, as is the Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry. These shoes get the job done well enough in various conditions and terrain without emptying your wallet. While not the highest-scoring, they'll do just fine for most people and their hiking objectives. One tip for finding value in hiking shoes is to consider if you need a pair of waterproof shoes. If you don't, most of the models in this review are available in non-waterproof versions, which tend to be less expensive than their waterproof counterparts. As a bonus, non-lined shoes almost always have better breathability, which is great for warm-weather hiking.
It is hard to overstate the importance of comfort in hiking footwear. Your feet are your driver on the trail, navigating roots, rocks, and rugged terrain, so it is essential to have cushioned and comfortable shoes. Even a short hike can be unpleasant in an uncomfortable shoe, let alone a weeklong through-hike in remote mountains. Imagine taking in the view when all you can think about are the hotspots forming on your toes. Comfortable shoes are well-padded, responsive, supportive, and correctly sized. Of course, a good fit is important and highly subjective, as a shoe that fits one person's long and narrow feet might not feel so great to someone who has wider feet. Too loose or too tight, and you'll end up with blisters, pressure points, and sores. While we attempt to state which models will work best for a certain shape of foot or height of the arch, fit influences a shoe's comfort score less than factors that will affect every user, such as the amount, placement, and style of cushioning. If you think you've found the perfect shoe, but discover they are a bit uncomfortable after breaking them in, you can always play around with aftermarket insoles, tongue pads, or different shoelaces.
The standouts in this category are the La Sportiva Spire GTX, the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex, Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry, and Arc'teryx Aerios FL. These shoes have ample cushioning without being soft. One telltale sign of a comfortable shoe is the amount of fatigue and soreness you feel in your feet at the end of the day. The Spire GTX is not the most cushioned we reviewed, but it has a responsive and dynamic midsole and excellent support that performs well in all kinds of terrain. These shoes continue to be comfortable, even after long days with big miles. The X Ultra 4 features soft materials that flex and technical overlays that add support, all of which combine to make a remarkably agile and comfortable shoe.
Leather shoes may require a few hikes to break in, as the material needs to be worked to conform with your foot. Conversely, shoes made with synthetic materials tend to be more comfortable out of the box and more easily fitted to individual feet with their laces. We were impressed by how the Keen Targhee III Low needed less time than your average leather shoe to mold to the foot and provide a comfortable fit. These shoes have a spacious toe box to avoid cramming your toes, and while the heel cup is too large for some people, with Superfeet insoles, the heel provided a perfect fit. Occasionally, a stiffer material, like that of the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 Gore-Tex needs a few hikes to soften up. We note which shoes do and do not soften with wear and recommend wearing any new shoe on a couple of short jaunts to dial in lacing and comfort before taking them out for an epic adventure where hot spots and blisters can be a problem.
While we evaluate whether each shoe will work best for a narrow or wide foot, keep in mind that some models, including the Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry, Merrell Siren Edge 3, Merrell Moab 2 WP, and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator also come in wide sizes. These models are worth considering if you know you will need or prefer more width in your hiking shoe.
There is always variation in shoe brands with width, length, and shape, and it's a good idea to check the corresponding European size if you are looking at European shoe brands, as the conversion is not always consistent. US Women's size shoes convert to a range of Euro sizes, but only the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex, La Sportiva Spire GTX, and Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX run noticeably longer than the rest of the group. Shoes that run a little short are the Merrell Moab 2 WP - we had to size up. Otherwise, sizing differences were not enough of an issue to merit an exchange, but it is something to keep in mind if you run between sizes.
Support and stability come from several features, including arch support, lateral stability, stiffness of the sole, and how effectively one can adjust the shoe with the lacing system. We looked at each feature and evaluated the different models on how they performed relative to each other. Remember that ankle-high hiking shoes do not offer the same amount of support as a full boot. If your ankles are unstable or you plan to hike with a heavy pack on a very long hike, consider a full boot (often called "Mid" height).
When it comes to arch support, the shape of your foot will determine how much you want your shoe to have. If you have flatter feet and put on a shoe with pronounced arch support, it's not going to feel stable or comfortable at all. Conversely, little to no arch support in a shoe can feel brutal to someone with medium to high arches, especially during an all-day hike. Arch support is often a feature of the insole, which can be replaced with aftermarket insoles that suit your foot. If you love every other feature of a specific shoe but want more arch support, this is worth considering. Our lead reviewer evaluated shoes with Superfeet inserts while others on our review team evaluated shoes with their stock insoles.
Some models have excellent arch support, like the Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry, and the La Sportiva Spire GTX. The proprietary insole from Oboz provides the most support in the bunch with extra padding and a molded arch that holds its shape. Those with flatter feet may want to consider the Salomon Vaya Low GTX or the Salomon OUTline GTX - Women's, which have little arch support.
Lateral stability is also crucial in a hiking shoe because hiking rarely happens on totally manicured terrain. If you are boulder hopping, scrambling, or hiking in mixed or rough terrain, you need a stable shoe. Lateral stability is a combination of internal arch support and the sole's flexibility and firmness. If you can wring a shoe around like a wet towel, its stability will leave a lot to be desired. Of course, while stiff soles are great for adding stability, if they are too stiff, you'll lose flexibility in the forefoot, making it harder to hike up steep terrain. That said, too much flexibility in the forefront and the balls of your feet will absorb more shock from the trail, which will fatigue your feet more quickly. The La Sportiva Spire GTX offers some of the best support, as it is laterally stiff, with minimal flexibility in the forefront. On longer or more technical hikes, this provides greater protection underfoot and incredible stability with limited side-to-side play. If you prefer more flexibility through the ball of your feet, Salomon's X Ultra 4 impressed us with its ample flexibility coupled with ankle and pronation support via overlays on the outside of the upper. The Adidas Terrex Swift R3 Gore-Tex has excellent support in the midsole and uses stiff fabric in the upper for additional support.
A key feature for ensuring stability is having your foot secure with your heel in place. The uppers on shoes like the Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry come up slightly higher on the top of the foot, allowing for more adjustment in the ankle opening to create a snug fit and minimize heel lift. Even the slightest heel lift can be a recipe for severe blisters over time, so if you can't get a good fit in that area, you would be wise to consider a different pair.
Traction is a critical factor for any hiking or trail footwear. Slipping feet could land you on your rear end, contribute to twisted ankles, and severely limit the terrain you feel confident exploring. Several things contribute to a shoe's traction, including the stickiness of the rubber and the size, shape, direction, and depth of the lugs. Vibram soles are the gold standard for high-end hiking shoes; they make dozens of different rubber compounds and tread patterns with varying degrees of surface grip.
We primarily evaluated traction on steep and unconsolidated dirt trails. Still, we also tested shoes on snow, ice patches, rocky slabs, roots, wet logs and boulders, mud, loose lava scree, and any surface you might encounter on a big hike. Above-average traction on dirt is usually achieved through deep lugs that can dig into the ground with each step. Having "multi-directional" lugs (ones that look like zigzags or arrow tips) will also help your soles grip in many directions. We liked the traction best on the La Sportiva Spire GTX, Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex, Adidas Terrex Swift R3 Gore-Tex, Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry, and the Keen Targhee III Low. The lugs on these models are wide and grippy and work equally well on dirt and rock. Additionally, some shoes come equipped with a unique tread pattern on the heel, intended to improve traction while descending steep terrain. We appreciate this feature, as it gives us great security and purchase when moving down steep slopes by allowing us to dig in with our heels more effectively. The Spire, X Ultra 4, Swift R3, and Arc'teryx Aerios all have this outsole feature.
When it comes to traction on rock, the greatest impact comes from the rubber stickiness rather than the shape of the lugs. Hard and stiff rubber doesn't grip as well as softer and more pliable formulations. The Terrex Swift R3 is a top performer on bare rock, as is the La Sportiva Spire. The rubber is soft and sticky, and we scrambled with confidence all over rocky slabs in both of these models. Remember that temperature may affect stickiness, and soft rubber typically does not perform as well in cold temperatures. The Spire is fitted with Vibram XS Trek, which works exceptionally well on cold and wet surfaces while retaining flexibility.
The flexibility of the forefoot will also affect traction. If you can't bend the front of your feet or the sole is too thick to feel the rock, you may have difficulty achieving secure footing. The Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex hits a sweet spot between flexion and stability that works well for fast and aggressive hiking.
Light hiking gear can often lead to a more enjoyable experience on the trail. Hiking shoe technology has advanced to the point where hiking shoes are almost as light as trail running shoes without sacrificing the protection needed for hiking.
There is about a half a pound difference between our test group's heaviest and lightest pair of shoes. This extra weight might not seem like much (it's only four ounces on each foot), but we could feel the difference. The La Sportiva Spire GTX, at 1.81 pounds per pair for a size 9.5 US and 1.61 pounds for a size 7 US, falls in the middle. The upper is less burly than the heaviest models, but they are an almost perfect union of performance and weight by taking advantage of the best and latest technology.
When evaluating our favorite shoes, we realized that a slightly heavier shoe is not a deal-breaker if it gives us all of the other features that we want, such as more foot support and less foot fatigue at the end of the day. Sometimes, lighter materials lead to less comfortable, stable, and durable shoes. The Salomon OUTline GTX is lightweight at 1.19 pounds for a size 7 US, but provides little cushioning or support, limiting its use to gentler travel. The Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry, on the other hand, is one of the heavier shoes in the test at 1.83 pounds for a size 7, and we found it to be a durable and comfortable choice for longer treks. The Keen Targhee III Low (1.78 pounds size 9.5, 1.60 pounds size 7) and the Lowa Locarno GTX Lo (1.56 pounds size 7) hit that sweet spot between durability and weight. Both shoes land near the middle of the pack for weight but have burly nubuck leather uppers that will endure lots of use.
If you are looking for the lightest weight shoes that are also high-performing, then consider the Arc'teryx Aerios FL. These strike a balance between being lightweight while still offering support. We kept reaching for the Aerios for light to moderate day hiking. These shoes provide just enough comfort and protection underfoot without weighing you down even an ounce more than necessary. If you are fastpacking, mountain running, or tackling big objectives in a day, the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex is a great option. At 1.37 pounds for the pair (size 7), it weighs less than the Spire, and the aggressive and dependable tread allows for confident speed on tricky terrain.
Many hiking shoes come in both a waterproof and a non-waterproof version. The best option for you depends on the climate, terrain, and season that you plan to do the majority of your hiking. Do you live in the desert and do everything you can to avoid hiking in the rain? Are your hikes primarily shorter and closer to home? You may want to pass on the Gore-Tex and opt for a pair with a mesh lining instead. However, most hiking destinations have unpredictable weather, and an afternoon rainstorm far from the trailhead can make for a soggy, uncomfortable, and even painful hike.
Waterproof membrane technology is always improving, allowing shoes to transfer heat and sweat away from your feet and out of the shoe. Even as the technology becomes more breathable, a membrane will invariably be less breathable than a shoe without a membrane in the lining. The most breathable and waterproof we have yet to encounter is the La Sportiva Spire GTX, which increases ventilation through the bottom of the shoe with open channels in the sole. This is possible using a Gore-Tex Surround liner that promotes breathability while maintaining its water resistance. On the other hand, the Adidas Terrex Swift R3 is perfectly waterproof but is not nearly as breathable. Our feet got rather toasty while hiking, especially on the warmest days of summer, but the Terrex Swift is an excellent choice on a cold, wet day. If you live in a wet climate or plan any trip into the mountains, a waterproof shoe is typically necessary. Most of the tested models claim to be waterproof, but we also included a few non-waterproof models, including the Merrell Siren Edge 3, Danner Trail 2650, and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator.
We performed various tests to determine water resistance, including splashing around in streams, hiking on snow, and our submersion test. We use a bucket to submerge the shoes for 10 minutes in 3" of water. What became immediately apparent from our soak test is that the waterproof barriers and technology are really good these days. Almost all the shoes that claim to be waterproof are actually waterproof. While the bucket test isn't a replica of what happens in a real-world stream crossing, it does help to illustrate that if water is getting into your waterproof shoes when crossing a stream, it's most likely coming in from the ankle opening and not the upper or even the gusseted tongues.
In addition to evaluating waterproofing, we measured the water absorption of each shoe by weighing them before and after the submersion test. Again, the Spire stole the show, absorbing the least amount of water (just 0.14 pounds or 2.24 ounces) of any shoe we tested. This is a critical thing to note because shoes that absorb water will be heavier, even if they keep your feet dry. Imagine hiking on a drizzly day or through wet grass where the steady amount of moisture saturates some (or all) of your shoes. If the upper sheds water with no absorption, they will maintain the shoes' dry weight while keeping your feet drier and more comfortable. While hiking shoes will provide inherently less coverage than a full boot, we also measured how high off the ground the ankle opening sits because the higher the ankle collar, the better your foot will be protected from random splashes of water.
All of our mesh-lined shoes lasted less than 60 seconds in our submersion test, with the Merrell Siren Edge, Danner Trail 2650, and Merrell Moab 2 Ventilators becoming completely soaked. Each of these shoes absorbed the most water as well. The Siren proved to be the quickest drying by a long shot, while the Trail 2650 and Ventilator took more than 12 hours to fully dry. Additionally, none of our waterproof shoes could come close to offering the breathability of the Siren. If you don't need a waterproof shoe, these shoes could be a great option for regulating sweat and foot temperature while drying quickly if you get caught in an unexpected storm. The Siren is also available in a waterproof version.
Hiking shoes are the buffer between you and rough, rugged, or abrasive terrain, so it's no surprise that they will wear out faster than the rest of your hiking gear. The typical shoe with a soft EVA midsole lasts between 300-500 miles, depending on the shoe's structure, as well as where you hike, how you walk, and how much weight you carry. If you are a casual hiker, it might take years for your shoes to break down. Ambitious hikers, however, may go through one or more pairs a year. Shoes with a polyurethane (PU) midsole are expected to last up to twice the mileage, but that extra durability comes at the expense of comfort. Normal wear and tear on any shoe packs down the midsole and wears down the outsole, so stiffer midsoles (like a dual-density EVA vs. a soft one) and harder rubber soles last longer overall.
While time does not allow us to put 500 miles on all the models in this review, each pair was worn extensively in various terrain. We closely inspected the shoes for damage, areas of potential weakness, or premature wear and compression. To make shoes lighter, some midsoles are left almost entirely exposed. Since that material is softer than rubber, it is more prone to snagging on vegetation, tearing, or even pulling away from the upper. If you hike in very brushy terrain, you may see more of this kind of damage than if you are out on desert slabs.
In addition to the soles, we look closely at the uppers. Leather tends to have the greatest longevity, especially when it is double-stitched. Synthetic materials are lighter and more breathable than leather, but our experience shows that they are more vulnerable to tearing or cracking than leather. We closely inspect seams, eyelets, toe boxes, and pressure areas for any indication of failure, delamination, or wear. The abrasion-resistant mesh on the La Sportiva Spire GTX is supplemented with a polyurethane toe cap and heel-surround for added durability. The synthetic upper on the Arc'teryx Aerios FL also impressed us with its toughness. Some models have welded overlays made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), which adds durability while being lighter than rubber. It protects from abrasion but will not provide as much protection from rocks, roots, or other potential toe-stubbing hazards.
The most impressive expected life span model is the Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry. Though the upper is constructed primarily of durable leather, several mesh inserts improve breathability. The seams holding these materials together are double or triple-stitched with no indications of pulling or unraveling, giving us confidence that they will hold up long term. The shoes are burly, and the insole is also one of the best in its class, increasing the footbed's life. Even if you use these shoes for hiking long distances and with a heavy pack, we expect them to perform the longest among the shoes we tested. Leather shoes tend to be a better investment for their longevity, though they come with a weight and bulk penalty.
Many innovative and exciting technologies are being used in hiking shoes these days, making them lighter and more responsive without sacrificing support or stability. New features and models can be overwhelming to compare without putting in the miles to test them. This review should help you narrow down your options and find the right hiking shoe for any adventure, whether exploring backyard trails or planning an epic adventure.
Planning for an upcoming hike? We reviewed a handful of...
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